Lowther Medieval Castle project banner

Lowther Medieval Castle and Village

Overlooking the Bampton Valley on the edge of the Lake District, the picturesque ruins of Lowther’s nineteenth-century castle are one of the region’s most popular attractions. Less well known are the earthworks immediately to the north, the remains of a medieval castle and village. Preliminary work suggests the site may date to the late eleventh or early twelfth century. If so, it could provide rare evidence of the conquest of Cumbria by King William Rufus and his brother, King Henry I – a generation after the Normans seized control of the rest of England. The site is potentially of national significance but has never been fully investigated. Who built the castle and its settlement, when and why? The Lowther Medieval Castle and Village project brings together historians and archaeologists from the North West to uncover the site’s biography, writing a new chapter in the history of medieval Britain and castle studies.

In 2023, funded by the Castle Studies Trust (CST), the team conducted archival research and a geophysical survey and excavations of the castle and village. Phase Two investigations in 2024 will dig further into the site's history, funded by the CST and the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society (CWAAS). Our team will be conducting a geophysical survey and excavating the earthwork castle in Lowther's north park from Monday 13th to Friday 31st May 2024, and welcomes visitors. For press enquiries and to ask about group tours, and for information on visiting Lowther Castle and Gardens, please see below.

Lowther Medieval Castle and Village project

Uniting History and Archaeology, the project brings together Lancaster University, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Allen Archaeology and Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust.

Press Release
Norman Conquest Bayeux Tapestry

History and Archaeology in Medieval Cumbria

The team aims to uncover important new evidence for a critical period in Britain’s past. Unlike the rest of England, Co. Cumbria was not conquered by the Normans in 1066. The region was historically part of the Kingdom of Cumbria, which stretched from Strathclyde across the Solway. Then, while the Normans were conquering lowland England, the area from Lowther northwards was conquered by the Scottish king Máel Coluim III. Cumbria was only annexed by the Normans in 1092, when William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus, led an expedition to the area. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the king then ‘sent many peasant people with their wives and cattle to live there and cultivate the land’. An earthwork survey has suggested the castle is an early Norman ringwork, with a planned settlement. Could Lowther’s medieval castle and village date from this era? There is little written evidence for Cumbria in the early and central Middle Ages: since this region was not part of William the Conqueror’s kingdom it was left out of Domesday Book, and few records have otherwise survived. Whatever the investigation finds, the archaeology at Lowther offers a fantastic opportunity to understand life in medieval Cumbria.

Digging into Medieval Cumbria: Lowther Medieval Castle and Village Project 2023

Uniting History and Archaeology across the North West to uncover the hidden history of medieval Cumbria, the project team conducted archival investigation and a geophysical survey and excavation at Lowther in 2023. The project was featured on BBC2's Digging for Britain.

Dig Diary

Read about the 2023 investigation via the project's Dig Diary, hosted by the Castle Studies Trust, for more on the historical sources for medieval Cumbria and how the four-week excavation at Lowther unfolded.

Dig Diary
Norman Conquest Bayeux Tapestry

Project Team

Funded by: Castle Studies Trust

Project Lead: Dr Sophie Thérèse Ambler, Reader in Medieval History and Deputy Director of the Centre for War and Diplomacy, Lancaster University

Site Director: Tobin Rayner, Allen Archaeology

Student Archaeology Lead: Dr Jim Morris, Senior Lecturer Archaeology and Course Leader Archaeology & Anthropology, UCLan

David Bliss, CEO Lowther Estates

Charlotte Fairbairn, Exhibition Curator, Lowther Castle and Gardens

Contact the project team

For general enquiries about the project, please contact Dr Sophie Thérèse Ambler: s.ambler@lancaster.ac.uk

For press enquiries, please contact Anne Rothwell: a.rothwell@lancaster.ac.uk